Guide for Innovative and Creative Minds


Can ideas be protected?

Ideas, as such, cannot be protected, however, under certain conditions the concrete form of the idea can be:

  • Technical solutions to a problem can be protected by a patent (e.g., heatable ski boots)
  • The name of a product or a logo can be protected by registering a trade mark (e.g., Ricola)
  • A product form can be protected by depositing a design (e.g., Colani bottle)
  • Literary works, art and computer programs are protected by copyrights

An idea alone is not patentable, but the exact instructions for arriving at the solution to a technical problem are. The realization of the idea must be accurately described.

Discoveries, aesthetic forms, and business systems are not considered inventions in Switzerland and thus cannot be patented. A discovery refers to finding something which already exists and simply describing it, or, in other words, an invention expands the technical possibilities of mankind while a discovery only expands our knowledge.

More examples of what is not patentable is under «What is an invention».

Good to know

  • Computer programs, as such, are not patentable, but, inventions based on such programs are (for example, electronic steering). More information on computer-based inventions can be found on page 14 of our patent examination guidelines (available in German (pdf) and French (pdf)).

Further information